Samfaina, Catalan ratatouille, uses roasted rather than raw peppers, as is common in other Mediterranean countries. This delicious variation adds a rich silky sweetness to the dish. The recipe makes a large quantity, as I like to make two dishes from my samfaina, each with its own distinct culinary purpose. The first is the familiar vegetable side dish; the second requires cooking the samfaina down further, for a good hour or two, which transforms it into a fabulous jam-like sauce that is perfectly paired with roasted or grilled fish, chicken and meat.
3 medium aubergines (about 700g in total), cut into 1cm thick slices
80ml extra virgin olive oil
1kg sweet white onions, halved and thinly sliced
6 garlic cloves, finely chopped
2 small courgettes (about 350g in total), cubed
6 large oblong tomatoes (the Roma variety works well), peeled, deseeded and chopped
3 Roasted Red Peppers (see below for recipe), finely chopped
2–4 tbsp tomato paste
Pinch ground cinnamon
Large pinch cayenne pepper
Sherry vinegar, to taste
Salt and black pepper
Serves 6 (with leftovers for making samfaina jam)
1) Place the aubergine slices in a colander, sprinkle them with salt and set aside for 30 minutes, then wipe off the excess salt with kitchen paper and cut the slices into 2cm (.in) cubes.
2) Heat the olive oil in heavy-based casserole dish or cast-iron saucepan. Add the onions, garlic, cubed aubergine andcourgette, and toss to coat. Reduce the heat to low, cover, and let the vegetables sweat for 10 minutes, then remove the lid, increase the heat to medium-high and cook until any excess liquid has evaporated.
3) Add the tomatoes, peppers, 2 tablespoons of the tomato paste, a pinch of salt and pepper, and the cinnamon and cayenne. Cook slowly over a low heat, uncovered, stirring occasionally, for 25–30 minutes. Taste and add another 1–2 tablespoons of tomato paste if desired. Continue cooking for a further 15–30 minutes, until it is a thick, rich stew. Add a splash of sherry vinegar to brighten the flavour and season to taste.
Tip: Season the samfaina lightly and often throughout the cooking process. The flavours intensify as the samfaina reduces, and adding too much salt and pepper early on can overwhelm rather than enhance the flavour of the vegetables.
Roasted Red Peppers
- 6 large red peppers (about 1kg/2lb 2oz)
- Remove the grill from the hob, and turn all the burners except the smallest on high.
- Wash and dry the whole peppers, and place as many peppers as will comfortably fit directly onto the hob, using all of the burners.
- Grill them for 3-4 minutes on each side, turning them gently with long-handled tongs (ideally tongs with silicone tips, to avoid tearing the flesh) until charred and black all over.
- To grill the bottoms, lay a pepper on its side directing the bottom into the flame and hold the pepper with the tongs directly on the heat source to char any remaining skin.
- Transfer the charred peppers to a metal bowl and cover the bowl with a saucepan lid, until they are all done.
- Replace the lid after adding each charred pepper. The peppers will continue to cook as they cool developing a rich, deep, smoky flavour.
- When completely cool, strain any liquor that has accumulated in the bottom of the bowl into a clean bowl.
Method 2 – This method involves oven roasting to cook, then grilling to char the skin.
- Preheat the oven to 140C (275F), gas mark 1.
- Wash and dry the whole peppers. Place the peppers on a baking tray and bake them in the oven for 45 minutes.
- Remove from the oven, cut out and discard the stem, cut each pepper in half and remove the seeds.
- Flatten the halves with your hands, rub them with olive oil, then place on a baking sheet skin-side up. Place under a hot grill for 5 minutes until the skin is blackened and charred. Transfer to a metal bowl and cover the bowl with a saucepan lid. Peel as in Method One.
These recipes are from Eivissa by Anne Sijmonsbergen (HarperCollins, £20) Photograph: David Munns